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Tag: Ethics

An Inspiring Disorder of the Second-order

TSElosophers meeting 8.2.2023. Albrecht Becker, Erkki Lassila, Joonas Uotinen, Kari Lukka, Mia Salo, Milla Unkila, Otto Rosendahl, Veli Virmajoki

Von Foerster, H. & Poerksen, B. (2002). Understanding systems: Conversations on epistemology and ethics. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers. Pages 11-63.


We read the first Chapter of a book that consists of a dialogue between “a physicist and philosopher Heinz von Foerster and journalist Bernhard Poerksen (back cover)”. Von Foerster, a leading figure of systems theoretical circles in the mid-20th Century, rejects all thought stream labels in this book except being a Viennese although he is widely recognized as a radical constructivist. The book is written after his active career in 2002.

The first Chapter, Images of Reality, describes how human neural systems can only observe their environment with perturbations that are not specific. Thus, it rejects all truth claims based on correspondence between human knowledge and being. It provocatively casts doubt on all causal explanatory principles presented by scientific realism, including gravity and evolution. The Chapter emphasizes the ethicality of second-order observations such as describing descriptions and explaining explanations.

Our discussion

The book divided our sympathies. Some liked it, some were annoyed or almost angry and some remained ambiguous. Many agreed that academia needs more inspiring dialogues and attempts to defend bold positions in conversations. Many were also inspired by some of Von Foerster’s ideas and ideals at large. The minority, who were sympathetic to the text, read it as an anti-thesis rather than a synthesis; as reactive rather than refined. The majority was frustrated, not least as Von Foerster does not develop his ideas, but only keeps ‘dropping’ them; seems to lack sufficient consistency; and the dialogue format is pointless since Von Foerster dodges so many of the most relevant questions.

We presumed that Von Foerster’s background as a magician contributed to his tendency to seek to shock with his anti-thetical statements to realism, which made him appear as a more extremist thinker than warranted by his constructivism. He posited that the system constructs its world and all knowledge about it, but he also argued against solipsism and anti-realism. He seems to agree with the existence of the system’s environment, but with the impossibility of creating knowledge that corresponds with the environment. In sum, his system’s theoretical underpinnings support metaphysical but reject epistemological realism.

We considered Von Foerster’s presentation insufficient for any sociological reading due to its methodological individualism. He wanted e.g. to replace the concept of truth with trust. This might work for local interactions – while many doubted even that – but it remains unclear how this change could be applied to globally spanning communication. Would trust in scientists eventually dilute into something like trust in politicians or journalists? We concluded that the book presents a sample of ideas from Von Foerster’s active career rather than integrating into subsequent theoretical developments in radically constructivist systems theories such as social systems theory.

TSElosophers also discussed ethics. Von Foerster associated all references to the external as excuses for people to free themselves from the responsibility of their decisions. He promoted people not to trivialize themselves, but retain the unpredictability of the non-trivial machines. However, we feel the argument is more balanced when you also recognize that interaction benefits from predictability and the common use of explanatory principles. Certainly, most people should not (and could not) make their world as complex as Von Foerster has done for himself.

Futures of Values

TSElosophers meeting on 21.10.2022. Elina Järvinen, Erkki Lassila, Joonas Uotinen, Kari Lukka, Mia Salo, Milla Unkila, Morgan Shaw, Otto Rosendahl, Siddhant Ritwick, Veli Virmajoki

Danaher, John (2021). ”Axiological futurism: The systematic study of the future of values”. Futures 132.


Danaher argues that value change in the future needs to be systematically studied. Danaher points out that there have been changes in values throughout history and these changes will most likely continue in the future. Understanding the possible changes in values in the future is “both desirable in and of itself, and complementary to other futurological inquiries”. Danaher names the inquiry into the future of values axiological futurism. Danaher sketches a set of possible methods that can be used in axiological futurism and a model for value change where “one of the main determinants of our movement through future axiological possibility space is [–] the form of intelligence that is prioritised and mobilised in society.”

Our discussion

Danaher’s argument for the need for axiological futurism is simple, convincing, and deep. When we discuss what the future should be like, we tend to use our own values to frame our views on the matter or even project our values into the future. However, if values would change, the desirability of a future is determined by the values and needs of future generations. Relating to normative future studies, one challenge is that there may be different moral truths and values in the future from those of today and therefore any normative projection to the future made today may sound unacceptable in the future. Relatedly, TSElosophers found the idea of contemplating and deducing what these potentially different future values (enacted by people in their everyday life) should be in order to achieve, for instance, a more ecologically sustainable future than how it looks based on the current such values.

There were some concerns about Danaher’s strategy. Introducing a novel field of inquiry with a daunting task such as mapping axiological possibility space is difficult in one paper. One needs to balance the abstract frame with some concrete suggestions on how to proceed. We were not quite convinced that the methods Danaher suggests are described in enough detail to give a sense of how the daunting task can be tackled. Moreover, one of us did not buy that forms of intelligence could very much determine movement in axiological space, but rather believed in the central role of material aspects. Others, however, seemed to accept Danaher’s main argument that it can well be a mix of both. TSElosophers anyhow were supportive of Danaher’s main project described in the paper. Rather, the concern was primarily how to execute the project.

There were additional worries that notions such as “the moral paradigm” may be misleading and give the false impression that there is a shared location in an axiological space where we all stand and move together. The western connotations of the project also worried us, for example when the forms of intelligence were defined in terms of a dichotomy between individual and collective. However, for a few of us more normatively oriented scholars interested in evoking value transformation pertaining to a more sustainable future, the main take-away of the paper was the interesting structuring of the possibility space of values. We felt that Danaher’s discussion of its constitution opened welcome avenues of reflection and action aimed at a potentially greener world.

Overall, the paper made a convincing case for the need for axiological futurism but made us realize how the complexity of axiological considerations casts a shadow of vertiginous complexity over the project.

For an interested reader, see also https://blogit.utu.fi/futuresofscience/2021/09/20/future-of-values-some-reflection/

Should we bring the mammoth back?

TSElosophers meeting 7.10.2021. Andrea Mariani, Elina Järvinen, Erkki Lassila, Kari Lukka, Milla Unkila, Morgan Shaw, Otto Rosendahl, Toni Ahlqvist.

Thiele, L. P. (2020). Nature 4.0: Assisted evolution, de-extinction, and ecological restoration technologies. Global Environmental Politics, 20(3), 9-27.


The Earth is 4,5 billion years old, and life on it around 3,7 billion years. Mammals get to spend their 200-million-year birthday, whereas hominids have been around mere 200 000 years. We Homo Sapiens managed to conquer the competition around 30 000 years ago, tamed the dog to help us 20 000 years ago and figured out farming 12 000 years ago (Dasgupta review 2021).

Everything preceding the use of tools and farming Thiele dubs Nature 1.0. It’s the state of the nature without the touch of humans. Nature 2.0 emerged as humans started to tinker with their environment, to plow fields, set up irrigation, to domesticate kettle – to build cities, roads, energy infrastructure, to extract minerals, to dig oil. While still a shorter period than the previous, Nature 2.0 has existed notably longer than Nature 3.0 that started mere decades ago: “It is chiefly characterized by the capacity for the accelerated, nonincremental, and precisely controlled modification or creation of life-forms and their environments. The primary Nature 3.0 technologies are nanotechnology, geoengineering, and biotechnology.”

In the article, Thiele discusses the implications of Nature 4.0, the potential next step in this trajectory. While utilizing the technologies designed during Nature 3.0, the distinction emerges from the motivation underpinning their use. Nature 3.0 is all about pleasing humans, whereas Nature 4.0 is about attempting to turn the tide of biodiversity loss of our making. We now have the technology to modify the habitats we once destroyed to recreate bounded ecosystems, to tinker with genes to bring back the passenger pigeon we hunted to extinction, to artificially engineer species that tolerate the changes we made to the biosphere in Nature 2.0 and 3.0.

In sum, we might be able to bring back the woolly mammoth and many other species. But the focal question Thiele asks is, should we, given that the potential risks of Nature 4.0 may be huge and the unpredictable consequences irreversible?

Our discussion

In discussing the article, the TSElosopher camps of using either the big or the detailed brush re-emerged. For some of us, the accuracy of the examples given in the article was of lesser value than the overall message the article carried, whereas for others, the lack of accuracy in detail made the overarching message less convincing. We all agreed that the article indeed gives food for thought.

Have we humans really come so far in our destruction of the biosphere that the only means to conserve and restore its livability (first to other species and then to ourselves) is to start artificially modifying species, habitats and natural processes? How should we evaluate the risks of releasing artificial DNA to natural processes? With the fallibility of technologies that seldom work exactly as envisioned in the designing phase, what kinds of Pandora’s boxes will we be unleashing when creating species or habitats that natural evolution did not account for?

If this is not yet the case, what could be done? We discussed the proposition by Dasgupta to re-envision nature as an asset, to be included in the accounting of the types of capital we possess. However, despite some support for this solution in TSElosophers, there were two criticisms. First and foremost, fixing the problem of valuing money over everything else through endowing also nature with price tags is a bit like fighting fire with oil. In other words, trying to solve the serious problems caused by Modernism, inserting more Modernism. Instead of assessing nature in monetary terms, we should instead do more to make people take its intrinsic value seriously – not all that counts can, or should be (ac)counted. The second criticism was born out of the first one: fighting the problems with the same mechanisms that caused them can only succeed in postponing the inevitable. We could all agree that the more responsible avenue is to try to work towards a paradigm shift in terms of the fundamental values and our anthropocentrically selfish and myopic life-style we adhere to already today – although ‘the Modernists’ in us would couple this approach with letting the economy treat nature as an asset.

While the description of both the past deeds of humans and the possibilities we now have at our perusal evoked sentiments of doom and gloom, not thinking about the choices we are currently making is not an option. We perceive human nature as such that the curiosity of driving natural scientists to uncover all that is humanly possible is seldom balanced with the patience of thinking through the implications of using all technologies we potentially could wield. We discussed that it falls for us social scientists to stay updated about the developing technologies and to take an active role in thinking through what of the things we could, should we actually be (not) doing.

As we humans are not exogenous to the nature, but a part of it, it can be viewed that all the tools and technologies we have designed and all actions we’ve taken, are due to the evolutionary processes that made us what we are. As humans we are predestined to be the representatives of our species and to act as the types of animals we are – to seek shelter, sustenance and comfort with all the means we have at our disposal, just as do any other animals. Hence, isn’t it just a fluke of evolution that made us capable of changing our environment more than the beavers or ants can, is it?

As the type of animal we are, we are capable of both destruction and creation beyond the possibilities of other species. The very interesting question therefore is, which of these sides of humanity, the destructive or the creative prevails when we are faced with the scale of changes we have wrought to the biosphere maintaining also our lives? Is our collective survival instinct strong enough to turn the tide of destruction? Because ultimately, though we are a tougher breed to kill than even rats or cockroaches, the kind of biodiversity that existed when humans evolved is still necessary for our survival.

We need the type of air to breathe that the Amazonia produces us, and the type of water to drink as gets filtered by untarnished soil, and dependence on technology to produce these comes with unimaginable uncertainties. The attempt to apply Nature 3.0 technologies to support assisted evolution and de-extinction leads to ethical and practical questions of considerable importance both in positive and negative terms. And yet at the end, we can ask ourselves, if the so called ‘unnatural’ human made artifacts are actually very natural and very normal part of evolution on this planet?

Hues of normativity in positive economics

TSElosophers meeting 28.5.2021. Erkki Lassila, Joonas Uotinen, Kari Lukka, Milla Unkila, Otto Rosendahl.

Reiss, J. (2017). Fact-value entanglement in positive economics. Journal of Economic Methodology, 24(2), 134-149.


The article by Reiss (2017) outlined historical developments of thinking in positive economics based on David Hume’s ”fork”, i.e. the separability of facts from values. Hume’s fork maintains that factual statements can be known without referring to non-epistemic values such as beauty, good, right, bad and wrong.

Hume’s fork is frequently applied in generating the distinction between normative and positive economics, argued forcefully for instance by Milton Friedman. In this mode of thought, the former are arguably about values and the latter about scientific facts.

The article reiterates, through examples from various aspects of conducting research, the already elsewhere made argument that economics is hardly able to provide a purely positive theoretical body and intricate statements presented as such are only seemingly so. A central theme of the article is that it may be that whenever generalizations are made beyond the immediate observations like that “this leaf here is green”, we may not be able to avoid the inclusion of non-epistemic values.

Our discussion

After many-sided and also critical discussion, TSElosophers came to the conclusion that Reiss manages to do what he wishes to achieve: supporting the blurring of the distinction between positive and normative economics. However, neither Reiss nor we are saying that science would become impossible to distinguish from opinions as Reiss elaborates a cognitivist metatheoretical stance to ethics that emphasizes human capability for reasonable argumentation about normative statements as well.

Thus, the blurring of the separability thesis enables more active role to economists who may now discuss about the normative hues that unavoidably shade the scientific inquiry – coming from e.g. the underdetermination of epistemic values and the expectations about the use of theories. Acknowledging this would allow economists to excel in this and leverage their role in the society with greater awareness and transparency about the values impacting one’s theoretical work.

Most importantly, the blurring of the separability thesis need not become a crisis in economics. Even if positive and normative statements cannot be sharply distinguished, some statements are still more based on facts than others; and academia places considerably more weight on the epistemic values in knowledge-production than happens outside of it.

TSElosophers sympathized with the use of separability thesis as a rhetoric device, although it doesn’t fully capture the complexities of science-making. Hence, it seems to function partly as an unrealistically straightforward solution to distinguish between the more and the less epistemic argumentations. Employing the separability thesis may be helpful in the context of economists’ theorizations when they are challenged in societal discourse; they still need a way to signal the convergence of their theorizations with the epistemic body of economics.

It was pointed out, however, that careless usage of such rhetorical devices may, however, corrupt the credibility of science in the long run. They are always political because they exclude some approaches from discussions instead of others without a watertight basis.

We concluded that a critical mindset and keeping one’s conflicting non-epistemic interests in a tight rein should be among the key strengths of all academicians – regardless whether one supports or rejects the facts-values dichotomy.

Science and values with dawning virtue ethics

TSElosophers meeting 22.4.2021. Joonas Uotinen, Kari Lukka, Maija-Riitta Ollila, Milla Wirén, Morgan Shaw, Otto Rosendahl.

Hicks, Daniel J. (2014). A new direction for science and values. Synthese, 191(14), 3271-3295.


Which values influence science and in which ways? Which values may legitimately affect science, and which values have an illegitimate effect?

Daniel Hicks presupposes that values are an integral part of scholarly research. “Many philosophers of science now agree that even ethical and political values may play a substantial role in all aspects of scientific inquiry.” (p. 3271) Discussions on isolationism and transactionism are not very relevant anymore. (Isolationism believes that ethical and political values may not legitimately influence the standards for acceptance and rejection of hypotheses. Transactionism, the negation of isolationism, states that some ethical and political values may legitimately make a difference to the standards of acceptance and rejection.) Daniel Hicks thinks that there are both legitimate and illegitimate values affecting science, and we should be able to distinguish them from each other.

Values can affect science in different phases of the research process: the pre-epistemic phase, the epistemic phase, and the post-epistemic phase. Hicks states that the distinction among pre-, post-, and epistemic phases is useful for some analytic purposes but cannot be directly applied “to the concrete complexities of the real world.” (p. 3289) In this paper, Hicks uses an Aristotelian framework to capture these complexities of real life, in the footsteps of Alasdair MacIntyre and Philippa Foot.

Hicks compares two cases: feminist values in archaeology and commercial values in pharmaceutical research to make his point. In the Feminist Case, self-identified feminist scientists criticized the androcentric presuppositions and research agendas. This project brought about new contributions, which changed archeological practices and the understanding of the cultural past. The Pharma Case describes the impact of commercial values on science. One example deals with the results of a clinical trial of an antidepressant. The trial did not show the effectiveness of the drug. However, the results were presented in a way that suggested the drug was effective. In the preliminary sketch presented by Hicks, in the Feminist Case, the impact of values is legitimate while illegitimate in the Pharma Case. In the more detailed analysis that follows, Hicks deals with three major approaches to legitimacy vs. illegitimacy. In his conclusion, he outlines his own approach, which he claims to emphasize ethics besides epistemology.

Hicks presents useful theoretical tools for analyzing values – e.g. direct, indirect, and cultural impacts of values – and finds inadequacies in using these tools. He implicitly suggests an Aristotelian virtue-based ethical framework to supplement these theories with an ethical perspective. Hicks reaches beyond the discussion on science and values: researchers should emphasize the virtues of good scholarship and grow as scientists to full maturity.

Our discussion

Some TSElosophers were more sympathetic to the dawning virtue ethics in science than others and all agreed that this is surely thought-provoking – but far from unproblematic. In particular, Hicks’ position on the Feminist and Pharma Cases seems to be predetermined by his own values.

In general, Hicks claims to avoid “pernicious relativism” (p. 3291) but fails to provide argumentation for his claim (and openly admits as much). Relativism is apparent in Hicks’ own distinction between constitutive (e.g., seeking for truth in science) and contextual (e.g., profit-making in the Pharma Case) values that seem to allow the corruption of epistemic values. From the point of view of science, epistemic values are constitutive, while from Hicks’ point of view, the epistemic values were contextual for the agents in the Pharma Case. In contrast, TSElosophers insisted that epistemic values are, and should be, at the core of research in the epistemic phase.

The three different phases of the research process inspired a vivid conversation. At which stage do values impact the research process? In the Feminist Case, values influence the pre-epistemic phase. During the pre-epistemic phase, “research programs are chosen, hypotheses are formulated, and experiments are designed and conducted.” Initially, there is no evidence to back up the new paradigm, research program or theory, but it is produced in the course of the research process. In the Pharma Case, a severe problem arises when unwanted values influence the epistemological phase. In the epistemic phase, “hypotheses are evaluated in terms of their relationship to empirical evidence, among other things, and accepted or rejected.” (p. 3273)

For TSElosophers, the pre-epistemic phase turned out to be about paradigmatic or attitude-related matters and about engaging in everyday research practice. For instance, the currently ruling publish or perish -mentality encourages the instrumental interest in science. Researchers need to pay heed to, e.g., the paradigmatic or methodological tastes and values of journal editors and the potential referees of the papers. Researchers frame their research and articles in such a way that they might appeal to the publishers. If the effect extends to the epistemic phase, all the worse.

What about the values of the epistemic phase? Is it possible that different epistemic values conflict? Or can there be important cases of epistemological underdetermination? For example, scientists choose methodologies with quite a lot of epistemological underdetermination in long-term prediction models of complex phenomena, such as climate change. Epistemological uncertainties make elbow room for other decision-making procedures. In those cases, should one for example exaggerate the effects of climate change if the evidence is ambiguous? The suggested solution was to communicate the unknown or the degree of uncertainty more effectively, e.g. with a scenario analysis. In sound science, we report the range of uncertainty. Another beacon of hope is the self-correcting process of science.

Finally, TSElosophers scrutinized the issues related to the third phase of the scientific process, the post-epistemic phase, “during which accepted hypotheses are utilized in other research (whether to produce more knowledge or new technology or both); this phase also includes the impacts of the accepted hypotheses on the broader society.” (p. 3273) For the sake of argument, let us assume that there might someday be research that could fuel racism. For example, we might have studies that corroborate the hypothesis of races based on biological differences, for instance, regarding IQ. Should we refrain from publishing such research or even conducting it, pre-shadowing the likely ensuing, problematic public discourse or cultural processes? Another tricky example is the Manhattan Case, the project that resulted in creating the nuclear bomb. It would not have been possible without Einstein’s theory of relativity. Should we stop doing any research that might lead to disastrous applied science and technology?

TSElosophers concluded that ethics are embedded in the scientific process and tend to be included in all three phases. That said, in the epistemic phase, precisely epistemic values should be kept as dominant as possible – this is the very lifeline of scholarly work, without which it ceases, sooner or later, to be meaningful. However, the results and the ethically justified research process need to be taken into account. An example of an unethical process is the utterly dehumanizing studies on human subjects by Josef Mengele.

TSElosophers wrapped up by realizing that science is both a logical process and a historical one. The cultural context has an impact on the concepts we use and the values we employ. However, epistemic values are the inalienable core of science: Prioritizing the truth, in the sense of a purpose of well-grounded scholarship, is the right procedure in the ethics of science. It is also pragmatically the most prolific policy: in the long run, trustworthiness pays off. Truthfulness is the basis of reliability – and it can be often communicated most effectively by direct reference to the epistemic phase and epistemic values, even though Hicks is correct in that advanced scholarship does well to analyze the entire research process with a broader ethical framework.

Foucault and the Environment – The Three Foucaults

TSElosophers meeting 26.3.2019 Elina Järvinen, Kari Lukka, Morgan Shaw, Ekaterina Panina, Otto Rosendahl, Milla Wirén

Darier, E. (1999). Foucault and the environment: An introduction. Discourses of the Environment, 1-33. Of which ”The Three Foucaults” pages 8-27.


In the piece of text we chose this time, Eric Darier, a Canadian political scientist having a deep interest in environmental issues, is looking at intellectual contributions of Foucault’s life dividing them into three periods: 1) an archaeological approach to scientific discourse and knowledge, 2) a genealogical approach to analysing social practices, and 3) ethical considerations of the possible conditions for the creation of self by itself. In addition to examining the influential ideas of these periods, Darier masterfully follows the development of Foucault’s thinking by linking the ideas and themes arising in Foucault’s earlier works to his later writings and vice versa. Furthermore, following the theme of the book, Foucault’s ideas are examined for their possible applicability to environmental issues.

Key points

• In Foucault’s archaeological approach, knowledge is relative to the historical context from which it emerges. Focus is on the emic statements of ‘objective reality’, scientific discourses, and how objects of scientific investigation emerge. Historicity of all of knowledge is emphasised. Foucault’s archaeology has been critiqued e.g. for being actually quite structural in approach despite his own criticism of structuralism; and for focusing on ideal knowledge categories and ignoring social and power relations.
• Genealogical period is partly Foucault’s attempt to respond to prior criticisms. Foucault’s genealogy tries to spot different roles the ideas take, fragment and deconstruct something that is considered stable. This adds on archaeological approach by introducing a broader context of social practices and the concept of power. Foucault here defines power partly through negation; power being relational, diffused, and having normalising effects; power being both positive and repressing, constitutive and enabling. Foucault is suspicious of what he calls ‘teleological projects’ and warns against ignoring the dark side of any projects propagated as ‘liberation’.
• The final Foucault focused on Greek ethics and explores, in particular, how individuals can sometimes, after all, construct themselves and their conduct in the world through ‘practices of liberation’ in relative autonomy from normalisation process.
• For the environmental discussion, an archaeological approach can help us see and reflect how environmental claims are made, or risks constructed, and by doing so resist the ‘fundamentalist temptation’ and reductionism. Genealogical period, in turn, introduces concepts that are very useful for environmental discussion: governmentality, biopolitics and space. Governmentality deals with issues of security, techniques to control the population and new forms of knowledge. Biopolitics concerns with power relations in governing life: population’s health, hygiene, natality, longevity etc. Space refers to government’s control over population living in the territory rather than a territory itself. Finally, Foucault’s last period is important for environmental ethics, where the idea of relatively independent self-constitution means that humans have the potential to continuously rework their relationship with themselves and their environment.

Our discussion

The discussion started with the question on the differences between archaeological and genealogical approach, or, more precisely, on the differences between the two analogies. How archaeological analogy differs from genealogical, if both are still emphasising the historicity of knowledge, among other things? We discussed that these two periods probably have the same goal, but present a shift in approach as well as response to several critiques as Foucault’s thinking developed. While archaeological approach can be compared to digging down through historical levels to uncover the roots of knowledge and scientific discourse in relation to historical contexts, genealogical approach looks at the ancestry of ideas, the situational connections between concepts as part of human practices. Though also partly historical, genealogical approach focuses more on fragmenting or unstabilizing the concepts that are considered historically stable, looking at how and through what power relations different elements of the concepts have been normalised.

The discussion then touched Foucault personally and his constant struggle against normalisation. An observation was expressed that his writings might actually reflect a certain kind of process of ‘autopsychoanalysis’. Through Foucault’s works, one can imagine him processing, for instance, his own sexuality (he was at least after some point of time openly homosexual) in his continuous fighting back established power relations, pressures for normalisation, and, especially in his later writings, pondering the development of the self in the context of these relations.

Everybody agreed that Foucault’s profound analysis of power relations is very useful and can be applied to many contexts. It is also in a way an optimistic, or at least less deterministic, approach, as power is seen operating through dispersed networks or dispositifs, which enables the resistance to take place at the multiple points of contact with this power. We also discussed certain pre-arrangements that are required for something or somebody to have power. For example, the tools for measuring the degree of somebody’s healthy lifestyle will govern one’s behaviour only if one sees the value in exercising healthy lifestyle. One of us noted being himself typically very sensitive and critical towards the new and again new teleological projects typical of bureaucracies, for instance, leading us often all too easily to just accept our participation in processes of normalisation; at least today, people have a tendency to switch their mode of self-governance on rather easily, without much reflective critique.

The conversation then turned to the environmental issues and the points Darier makes about applying Foucault’s thinking to the current (at the time) environmental discourse. Darier mentions that Foucault’s ideas of biopolitics and biopower have been extended to cover ecopolitics. While Foucault’s biopolitics is concerned with administration of populations by exerting positive influence on life, current environmental issues put a twist on the idea and make us consider other forms of life than human populations, namely, environment at large. Darier was of the opinion that Foucault would criticise ecocentric (anti-anthropocentric) views for ignoring the fact that they are constructed by humans, which leaves us with a problem of how legitimate is the human voice speaking ‘in the name of nature’. Following up on this thought, even though discussion on anthropocentricism was not really on the agenda of this session of TSElosophers, we wondered whether Foucault’s view might have been too anthropocentric, thereby being as much a ‘child of his time’ as anybody else: During his time, the scenario of the global ecocatastrophe, and the role of humans in getting it happen, looked certainly a significantly more distant and less likely one than how we perceive it now. Another theme, arising mainly from the final Foucault period, is the concerns on how people develop sustainable identities relatively autonomously from normalization processes, for instance, in the context of the (at that time) emerging program of ‘new ecopolitics’ and its new power relations.

The discussion on environment continued taking a bit more extreme turns. While Foucault argued against extremes and for self-reflecting understanding, some of us suggested that we are now living a time where radical extremes might be necessary, not least due to the ever increasing likelihood of global ecocatastrophe. The chapter is written in 1999, and Foucault himself wrote in 1960’s–80’s, which begs the question whether new insights into the very serious environmental issues would require a new, different perspective to the environmental critique? Is it viable to just routinely resist e.g. the normalisation of environmental discourse in case of existential threat at the global level, if the other likely option were a full chaos, even everybody’s war against everybody else? Indeed, appealing to security issues is one of the main components of governmentality, but the typical Foucauldian approach of viewing them always as just another teleological project, on which we should by default fight back, might in such very different conditions – under drastically new global ‘rules of the game’ – could well be viewed as less warranted. We continued discussing individual’s personal choice of something being normalized for the better of the society. The topic flowed into discussion on having to make trade-offs to achieve something collectively, which means taking both the good and the bad that comes with it. The bad would mean giving up some freedom, as the only way to be completely free is to be alone.

The discussion ended with the topic of personal ethics under existential threat, not living up to your ethics, and not being able to act autonomously from normalisation of practices that are against your ethics but beneficial of the survival of oneself or one’s kin.

TSElosophers’ overall impression of the text was positive: for some, Darier’s analysis brought new understanding of Foucault’s works in the context of his life, while for others the main interest lied in the environmental discussion and how ideas presented in 1999 would look today.

In addition, during the discussions there were several recommendations for further reading: Ari Ahonen’s thesis on Foucault (Liikkeenjohdollinen tieto ja disiplinäärinen valta: tutkielma Michel Foucault’n ajattelun relevanssista johtamis-ja organisaatiotutkimuksen kannalta, 1997), Donna Haraway’s Primate visions: Gender, race, and nature in the world of modern science (available in Google Scholar), and research in accounting on governmentality, for instance the article “Accounting and the construction of the governable person” published in Accounting, Organizations and Society in 1987. For additional Sci-fi readings, please contact Milla.

Ethical ascetic practices – or how to resist as an underdog?

TSElosophers’ meeting  on 23.3.2018. Albrecht Becker, Katja Einola, Eero Karhu, Kari Lukka, Eriikka Paavilainen-Mäntymäki, Ekaterina Panina, Otto Rosendahl, Joonas Uotinen, Milla Wirén

Organizational Ethics and Foucault’s‘Art of Living’: Lessons from Social Movement Organizations, Iain Munro 2014

The article by Munro (2014) discusses Foucauldian ‘art of living’ in organizational practice, specifically in social movement organizations (SMOs). Art of living focuses on self-creation, which goes beyond “exploitative neoliberal mechanisms of identity formation” (Munro 2014, 1128). According to Munro, neoliberal discourse reduces the self to a machine that produces, including the production of satisfaction with consumption. SMOs often act to balance the excesses of neoliberalism, which means that the art of living is more pervasive in this context. Munro (2014, 1142) points out that “SMOs provide a rich source of possibility for the development of alternative ethical exercises as well as opening up tactical points of reversibility to dominant neoliberal forms of subjectivity”. SMOs mentioned in the article include Amnesty Intl, Greenpeace, Methodism, Quakerism, Occupy movement and Slow Food.

Munro discovers four organizational practices relating to ‘ethical askesis’: Bearing witness, direct action to create alternatives, care for self, and the use of pleasure. Bearing witness refers to finding ‘the truth’ and experiencing its injustice and oppression, e.g. Greenpeace sailing a boat to nuclear test zone. Direct action stresses the creation and enaction of alternatives. For example, having dumped a ton of dead fish in front of a pulp industry company (i.e. bearing witness with a public dimension), Greenpeace helped the pulp industry to gather actors together to create less chloride-intensive solutions for bleaching paper (Håkansson, Gadde, Snehota & Waluszewski 2009, 49–61). The practice of care for the self is founded upon self-denial and personal sacrifice. This practice is legitimized by comparing it to the suffering of people that SMO members are trying to help, e.g. the Occupy movement’s meager protesting conditions reflects solidarity for the less fortunate. Nevertheless, the ethical ascetic practices also include the uses of pleasure that contrasts with pervasive neo-liberalistic institutions, e.g. adhering to slow food instead of fast food traditions.

The discussion at the meeting of TSElophers dug deeper into the unit of analysis in the article: It seemed that the levels of the individual and of the organization (here SMO) were conflated towards the latter part of the article. It seemed that Munro metaphorically endowed the SMOs the role of Diogenes the cynic, in which case the revealed ascetic practices did indeed signal resistance towards the wider structures in which that agent is embedded. However, if we look at the individuals within the SMOs, the logic doesn’t hold, as the individuals within the SMOs do not resist their organizations (the SMOs), but conform in order for the SMO to do the resistance. That said, we also deemed that as the article leaned more towards a desire to trigger thoughts and discussions than towards an attempt to deliver crystallized conceptualizations, this blurring of the analytical levels – while it led the group to ponder some issues of academic rigour – did not significantly diminish the merits of the article in terms of identifying modes of resistance.

Munro posits that art of living requires self-mastery, which enables reversal of the relationship to an external power. According to Foucault (2005, 252; in Munro 2014, 1134–1135), ”there is no first or final point of resistance to political power other than the relationship one has to oneself”. However, this asketic self-mastery is understood differently by Stoic and Cynic ethics. Stoics established a wider perspective, where askesis translates into mastering others through the mastery of oneself. Hence this type of askesis can arguably be connected to the development of capitalistic institutions. However, Cynics adopted an underdog perspective according to which self-mastery should be used ”as an act of permanent critique of the prevailing social order”. The Foucauldian concept of ethical askesis builds on the latter definition. In sum, the ethicality of askesis for Foucault concerns the practices that aim to transform institutionalized values.

This led the TSElosophers to ponder the potential modes of resistance we could engage in, if the structures resisted were to consist of, for instance, the publish-or-perish mentality often mentioned in our conversations. It was pointed out that criticizing can also be an act of validation, as both conforming to and criticizing the structures render them more visible and thereby increasingly ‘real’. Another way of rebelling against the structures is to disengage from the boundaries they suggest, by aligning ones actions towards other goals than the ones validated through conforming or criticizing. TSElosophers club in itself could be described as a form of direct action that supports alternative research approaches, stressing the meaningfulness of scholarly work beyond the boundaries of whether something is publishable or not.

However, art of living with non-mainstream approaches involves developing one’s abilities in caring for the self as securing just the basic income for living becomes more challenging. Engaging in acts of resistance from the (relative) security of a professorial position is different than resisting the structures from the position of a doctoral candidate dependent on grants. However, we all agreed that while the acts in themselves may differ, resisting – or at the very least, reflecting on one’s own ethical acts – is possible no matter the position.

In regards to for example our university, we also discussed that an ethical asketic could engage in ‘tests’ whether the institutionalized structures live up to their expressed and/or assumed ideals. For example, the expressed ideals of University of Turku are ethicality, criticality, creativity, openness and communality (University Strategy 2016–2020). While everyone recognizes that not all of these ideals are fulfilled, ethical asketism would highlight engaging into the development of alternative solutions – and possibly defending these with explicit references to the organization’s expressed ideals. The insights delivered by Munro in the article may provide ways to think about how to go about this in practice: How would the ethical askesis of bearing witness, direct action, caring for self and using pleasure look like when transformed into practices in our setting?

What we talk about when we talk about good scholarship

TSElosophers’ meeting on 27 February 2018. Katja Einola, Kari Lukka, Otto Rosendahl and Joonas Uotinen

The blog title above, inspired by the classic short story of Raymond Carver (…about love) and the book by Haruki Murakami (…about running) was at the heart of the discussion at the TSElosophers club’s meeting this time. Two working papers were on the table, coincidentally connected regarding their major worries and arguments: “Living in the publish-or-perish culture” by Albrecht Becker and Kari Lukka and “Willful ignorance in empirical organizational research” by Mats Alvesson, Katja Einola and Stephan Schaefer.

The key to the first mentioned paper is the distinction between two different kinds of research processes: one following the “true scholarship logic” and another driven by the “playing of the game logic”. The paper presents an interview based, abductively tuned analysis of how researchers of our time perceive the performance management regime around them and choose their strategies of leading their researcher life surrounded by that. Since the mapping of researchers’ strategies indicated a quite wide dispersion, the outcome of the analysis was somewhat relieving with a view of the general motivation of the study – the worry of the dominance of the harmful implications of the current instrumentalist tendencies in the academe on good scholarship. However, the study still indicates how the “playing of the game logic” is quite strongly supported by many recent institutions (like many kinds of rankings) and emerging local factors (like the strengthening performance measurement hype). Therefore, it is likely getting continuously more foothold and will need determined counter-agency to be sufficiently tamed down. This would be important particularly with a view of junior researchers, so that they would not only learn how to play the game to get published but rather to become good scholars. The role of local performance management systems and practices as well as the visionary agency of academic leaders is argued to be crucial herein.

The second paper discusses and analyzes the idea of willful ignorance in organization and management studies. The piece takes its inspiration in the German Enlightenment era scholar Friedrich Schiller’s inaugural lecture in 1789 as a professor of history in the university of Jena. This speech that was our topic of discussion at TSElosophers previous encounter, distinguishes between “philosophical minds” (who follow the scholarship logic) and “bread scholars” (who follow the game logic). The study specifically focuses on the relationship between empirical data and its analysis and understands willful ignorance as conscious efforts of scholars to repress doubts and ambiguities about their empirical data. Here, willful ignorance is not considered as a sheer lack of knowledge or the fabrication of data. The argument is that it moves between researchers´ inability to resolve ambiguities in their empirical material and a pronounced will not to follow up on these ambiguities and uncertainties with the more or less willful intention to not challenge oneself intellectually too much – and get a publication out instead. The study uses empirical examples and previous published research to demonstrate that there appears to be an inattention to source critique and an unreflective pursuit of formulaic methodologies and career paths in the field of organization and management studies. The research community as a whole needs to stand up to these tendencies to raise the level of quality of research and avoid willfully ignorant research practices from further contaminating the field.

The discussion at the meeting echoed the situation described in these two working papers: Many examples of researchers, research groups and communities having become tempted to follow “playing of the game” kind of logic and “Brotgelehrte” mind-set were brought forth. For instance, one of the club members recounted how his doctoral education was nearly entirely featured by the publication-induced “playing of the game logic”. Another member was frustrated about his experiences of becoming dismissed when he had tried to raise some out-of-the-box type of content issues to the discussion among his colleagues, since the mind-set was so strongly oriented towards just getting something publishable done in a straightforward manner.

One of the challenges of good scholarship comes from research ethics. While this is of course an eternal challenge, the increased dominance of the “playing of the game logic” may make some of the classic ethical challenges even more serious and bring to fore new issues in that regard. Willful ignorance is certainly an old challenge of researchers’ ethics, but it likely is ever more an issue in the academic environment featured by constant rush, gap-spotting research motivations, and straightforward seeking of publications. But it is particularly the rush towards performance results, plaguing the current academic work, that also leads to dismissal of research approaches that would take considerable time, like years-long ethnographic or interventionist field research even in situations where such approaches would be needed to be able to study some complicated research questions, involving the significance of subjective meanings, for instance.

There are also other challenges regarding how important topics and research questions can be explored and reported on in such ways that the interviewed or observed participants of research do not feel having become abused and are treated sufficiently anonymously. The club members yet agreed that the principle “all topics should be able, and allowed, to get explored in research” should be the first and highest guiding principle in research. Therefore, researchers need creative imagination to conduct and report on their research in such a way that the complex set of criteria of good research (importance of the research question, overall research quality, ethical issues…) are simultaneously tackled, without compromising any important aspect concerning the overall quality of the study.

Brotgelehrte or a philosophical mind? On history and on the burden of making choices

TSElosophers’ meeting on the 30th of January, 2018.  Katja Einola, Kari Lukka, Jonathan Van Mumford, Otto Rosendahl, Joonas Uotinen, Milla Wirén

The nature and value of universal history: an inaugural lecture, Friedrich von Schiller, 1789

Editor’s note:

While our discussions yet again soared free in ways difficult to replicate in a concise blog, the main theme was the dichotomy of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, captured already by Schiller, and even today witnessed in all such spheres of human activity where passion becomes profession. The following blog by Katja captures the sentiments of our discussions, yet weaves them into a beautiful entity in its own right.

Blog by Katja

The French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre famously exclaimed that we are ‘condemned to be free’. With this he meant that what he considered a basic human condition, freedom, implies that we must make choices – and making choices is often difficult. Especially when our own choices may complicate our lives. Yet, we cannot escape making them. In fact, we make choices even when we decide not to do anything. Just knowing something is inherently wrong or immoral, makes us directly responsible. Being free to choose is at times a heavy burden.

Researchers and academics whose job it is to seek new and challenge existing knowledge make these types of choices every day, more or less consciously. Do I correct the Master’s thesis by reading it diagonally and give a good grade to spare my time (and boost my popularity ratings), or do I really set my mind to making sure he/she gets best possible help to leave the school with the best possible thesis? I have a nagging feeling that my research results do not reflect the reality out there—but do I really have time to go investigate more, dig deeper, since I know I can probably get away with this (and get published)? Performance pressure, budget constraints, personal ambitions and the famous ‘publish or perish’ imperative are pushing many to cut corners in their research and teaching, and scale down their intellectual ambitions to ‘make it’ or remain credible in the modern academia. In particular, juniors who do not have tenure or other form of job security need to make tough choices what their research is going to be about. More research does not necessarily mean better research, even when the System we are part of (or trapped in) guides us to choose quantity over quality, speed over reflection. In fact, an increasing amount of voices within the field of organizational and management studies, feel that much academic research today is low on substance and meaning.

The more things change, the more they stay the same’, goes an old saying. In 1789, the German Enlightenment poet, philosopher, physician, historian, and playwright, Friedrich Schiller, a protégé of Goethe, delivered his inaugural lecture on universal history at Jena University. Students flocked in to listen. His concern for what he must have thought was at the time a tendency to weak research and unambitious researchers, more at the service of their careers and ‘masters’ than knowledge, was so strong that he started his speech with a careful distinction between what he called ‘Brotgelehrte’ (bread-fed scholars) and the Philosophical Mind. Schiller used the very beginning of his speech to warn the young, pure minds with thirst to know, from ‘being wasted unworthily by fraud and deception’. I use Schiller’s words here directly to explain the distinction between the Philosophical Mind and Brotgelehrte to highlight their relevance in today’s academia (and because I cannot think of a more eloquent way to transfer their meaning):

The course of studies which the scholar who feeds on bread alone sets himself, is very different from that of the philosophical mind. The former, who, for all his diligence, is interested merely in fulfilling the conditions under which he can perform a vocation and enjoy its advantages, who activates the powers of his mind only thereby to improve his material conditions and to satisfy a narrow-minded thirst for fame, such a person has no concern upon entering his academic career, more important than distinguishing most carefully those sciences which he calls ’studies for bread,’ from all the rest, which delight the mind for their own sake. Who rants more against reformers than the gaggle of bread-fed scholars? Who more holds up the progress of useful revolutions in the kingdom of knowledge than these very men? Every light radiated by a happy genius, in whichever science it be, makes their poverty apparent; their foils are bitterness, insidiousness, and desperation, for, in the school system they defend, they do battle at the same time for their entire existence. On that score, there is no more irreconcilable enemy, no more jealous official, no one more eager to denounce heresy than the bread-fed scholar.

Then comes the other part of the speech in which Schiller delivers a passionate account of how he thinks the whole history of mankind has inevitably led to the Age of Reason that finds its peak of sophistication in the Holy Roman Empire and Germanic civilization, purified from corruption by the Protestant Reform. Travellers who had visited the ‘margins of civilization’ overseas, only inflated this hubris with their rendition about the ‘savages’ they found.

In some places, there was not even the simple bond of marriage, as yet no knowledge of property, and in others the flaccid soul was not even able to retain an experience which repeats itself every day; one saw the savage carelessly relinquish the bed on which he slept, because it did not occur to him, that he would sleep again tomorrow.

After thousands of years of war and barbarism, a new era of Reason and Peace led by Europe was dawning.

How many wars had to be waged, how many alliances concluded, sundered, and become newly concluded to finally bring Europe to the principle of peace, which alone grants nations, as well as their citizens, to direct their attention to themselves, and to join their energies to a reasonable purpose!

Now what do these travellers tell us about these savages?

With the benefit of the hindsight, this part of the speech is naïve, euro-centric and to a large extent, incorrect. Indeed, being historically embedded means also to be myopic to the present– a tendency that will hardly be avoided by the 21st century man either.

Let us now return to the Brotgelehrte-Philosophical Mind distinction, the part with pressing everyday importance to us, today’s researchers. There is no easy separation between the two types – and classifying researchers or research according to these categories seems unproductive. I suggest instead that we take these as rhetorical types and make them more visible in our discussions as we practice our science and art. Who do we ‘serve’ in the classroom and when we conduct research? Knowledge — or something else – morally dubious, corrupting our community and deceptive of our audiences. For me the question is about an existential choice – choice not made easy for todays’ practicing academics.

Katja Einola

From “theory of everything” to theorizing about everything

TSElosopher’s meeting 16.10.2017. Joonas Uotinen, Kari Lukka, Eriikka Paavilainen-Mäntymäki, Katja Einola, Otto Rosendahl, Milla Wirén, Eero Karhu

Integral Perspective on Happiness, Joonas Uotinen, 2015

Editor’s note:

As one of the themes in TSElosophers is to provide an agora for contemplating one’s own work with people interested in philosophical issues, this autumn we have been reading material written by TSElosophers. Subsequently what has emerged is the insight that in discussing one’s work, it is difficult to only keep to what has been written, as the thinking evolves and develops continuously. This was pronounced in our previous session where the discussions were only tangentially attached to the reading material. The following blog by the author illustrates the discursive width of our meeting nicely.

Blog by Joonas:

TSElosophers meeting was about advances in consciousness studies, happiness, and their possible implications on social sciences, economics in particular. Possibly an interesting go as it included discussions on the latest hot topics in the West, of consciousness, happiness and buddhism.

As a context to my essay (Uotinen, 2015) on the possible implications of Ken Wilber’s Integral theory (Wilber, 2000 and Wilber, 2009, f. ex.) to happiness, I presented a short introduction on consciousness studies. At the heart of the consciousness research is the existence of consciousness itself(1).

Here I referred to Chalmers (1995) where he, interestingly, claimed that the tools of our contemporary science can not solve the “hard problem” whatsoever. The hard problem is the emergence of consciousness itself. He, then, proposed that the consciousness appearing non-reducible, it should be taken as new fundamental phenomenon on par with mass, electromagnetic charge and space-time, for example. He proposed that we should turn towards such psychophysical theories in science.

Ken Wilber’s Integral theory appears to be just such a psychophysical theory that, while not using the same concepts as Chalmers does, takes experience as a non-reducible and maps the relationships and dynamics between the material and the experience.

Wilber tried to integrate the knowledge of all humanity to obtain an integral view; something more completely true, literally.

Some elements of his theory in very short:

  • Experience can not be reduced to objective materia but is undetachable from it.
  • Experience together with the rest of the universe lead onto a developmental trajectory for the both of them (experience evolves and being part of the universe so does universe). For example, he refers to western developmental psychologists’ experiments where they found that a child’s ability to understand that others have a different experience about the world, appears around the ages 3-4. This would hardly happen if no other being or materia was there (in which case it is likely the child would not be either). This only shows the necessity of the rest of the universe to be there for the existence of mind or its evolution and thus they seem inseparable. This echoes the contemporary extended mind theories; also in part by Chalmers (Clark & Chalmers, 1998).
  • The developmental trajectory spans from elemental physical particles to the mentioned developmental step of the mind all the way to enlightenment of the mind, that is the transcendence of dualistic thinking into a non-dualistic thinking.
  • The developmental trajectory takes the form of a holarchy: each consequent “step” contains the preceding one but is something more. Each preceding thing is a holon of the consequent thing(2). For example, to begin to form social roles, a child first needs to understand the aforementioned differing experience of the others.

My article “Integral Perspective on Happiness” (Uotinen, 2015) examined the implications of Wilber’s Integral theory to happiness. While mostly being a conceptual analysis between the theory and the happiness discussions, the article also cautiously touched on whether the implications seem to have any truth in them. Without further details presented here, the following topics were covered:

  1. happiness, culture and ethics of ecological sustainability,
  2. Examination of enlightenment as THE happiness basing on Integral theory, Aristotle, Buddhist texts, Western studies of buddhist thought, and other philosophical classics on happiness,
  3. How Integral theory possibly gives further content to and expands Aristotle’s happiness theory through adding developmental psychology and different wisdom traditions, such as buddhism, to it,
  4. Juxtaposition of Aristotle’s happiness conception (eudaimonia) and enlightenment and
  5. The implications of Wilber’s Integral theory on social sciences, economics, in particular.

The discussion

The topics elicited varied, eager and interesting discussions. The following comments were expressed or topics touched:

  1. Why would not science be able to explain the emergence of consciousness one day?
  2. It was suggested that the existence of experience as additional to materia and development of the mind reflects discussion on free will.
  3. How such ideas on happiness as enlightenment, eudaimonia, or just the word happiness reify the idea of some yet unattained goal thus making the distance to that goal more visible. This causes misery in itself.
  4. The problem and danger of paternalism and cultural colonialism in Wilber’s ideas and in ideas of developmental steps of the human in general,
  5. Being about something ethereal, spiritual, mental, happiness should not be discussed amongst sciences or academia whatsoever.
  6. Another view was presented as well: that material well-being and mental well-being should not be seen as separate in the first place.
  7. Perhaps we should not focus on happiness but on how to coexist together on this planet.
  8. That all disciplines, economics in particular, should be aware of that which it does not take into account or that which it does not care about, specifically with regards to happiness and well-being.
  9. Harari in his book “Sapiens: A brief history of humankind” suggests that the ability of Homo Sapiens to believe in imaginary narratives enables collectively aligned action. The ability for narratives gives rise to shared values such as morals and happiness ideals.
  10. Unlike in Ancient Greece and the middle ages where moral development and happiness were seen as more inseparable, today there is often the view that morality opposes one’s true, “natural” desires and wants, one’s happiness. Often, the morality of the middle ages is seen as imposed by the church in order to control the masses.
  11. People have beliefs about others’ aims in life or happiness conceptions and about the beliefs that others’ have about others. But are these beliefs true? For example, it may be believed that people involved in business only want money and sometimes these assumptions can be even made within academia and yet when these people are actually asked, very different answers appear.
  12. From thinking what are theories for, the idea came that they are to bring momentary senses of control which lead to experience of harmony. Happiness is experience of harmony.

The topics are too vast for blog. I shall, however, try to make few post-discussion comments on the topics discussed. Points 3 to 9 all seem to relate to something that today seems to often surface when happiness is discussed: skepticism about the concept itself. This seems to stem from two different directions: (1) there is skepticism as to whether happiness can be solved (and therefore discussed), and (2) the fear that if such a concept was formed, it will start to oppress other views and thus other people’s ways of life and, possibly even constrain individual liberties. The (2) seems related to cultural relativist views which I partly discuss in chapter 7 of my article.

Happiness discussions, then, seem to closely align with the discussions on truth. While all people do have differing views on the reality, it seems a fully relativist approach leaves us stranded with regards to how to lead our lives as individuals and as a society. In it, we have but a panoply of possible ways of understanding the world, the self and different life paths and we have to choose from them without criteria that would make some of them better than the others. This appears to relate to Schwartz (2000) discovery on how increased freedoms (opportunities) of the Americans over the 20th century seems to have made them worse off at least in terms of some mental disorders. It appears we need something more and it appears there is something more to this.

Good works on and possibilities towards this direction, to my understanding, are Buddhist thought (not the religious versions but the self-exploration versions), the famous Finnish academician Erik Allardt’s work (f. Ex. Allardt, 1993) and the late discussions on it in, for example, Hirvilammi (2015), the novel empirical research on virtues globally by Martin Seligman (f. Ex. Seligman, 2004) and the possibility of forming a Gross National Happiness Index for Finland in lines with Bhutan (Ura et al., 2012).

With regards to the hard problem and its significance to happiness discussions, it appears to me now, that as long as we see consciousness and experience as truly existing phenomena, regardless of it being reducible or not, the question actually may not be of significant importance to happiness discussions.

There was also valuable criticism on the article. The truthfulness of the content of Wilber’s theory was not discussed(3), there were some deduction errors or conceptual and referential unclarity(4), and the story in the paper was unclear and the conclusions unbalanced in terms of how much discussion was given to each of the conclusions.

I think some of the most interesting avenues that Integral theory seems to highlight in Happiness discussions is the connection between the developmental levels or trajectories discussed by many Western developmental psychologists and Eastern wisdom traditions. I have not encountered such a view amongst the new happiness discussions within Academia.

Joonas Uotinen


Allardt, E. (1993). Having, loving, being: An alternative to the Swedish model of welfare research. In Nussbaum, M. and Sen, A. (1993). The quality of life, 8, 88-95.

Chalmers, D. J. (1995). Facing up to the problem of consciousness. Journal of consciousness studies, 2(3), 200-219.

Clark, A., & Chalmers, D. (1998). The extended mind. analysis, 58(1), 7-19.

Harari, Y. N., & Perkins, D. (2014). Sapiens: A brief history of humankind. London: Harvill Secker.

Hausman, D. M. (2011). Preference, value, choice, and welfare. Cambridge University Press.

Hirvilammi T. (2015). In search of sustainable wellbeing. Integrating ecological issues into wellbeing research. Helsinki: Kela, Studies in social security and health 136, 2015. ISBN 978-951-669-971-7 (pdf)

Hämäläinen, R. P., & Saarinen, E. (2008). Systems Intelligence–A New Lens on Human Engagement and Action. SAL, Helsinki Univ. of Technology.

Nagel, T. (1974). What is it like to be a bat?. The philosophical review, 83(4), 435-450.

Schwartz, B. (2000). Self-determination: The tyranny of freedom. American psychologist, 55(1), 79.

Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification (Vol. 1). Oxford University Press.

Ura, Karma; Alkire, Sabina; Zangmo, Tshoki; Wangdi, Karma (2012). An Extensive Analysis of GNH Index (PDF). Thimphu, Bhutan: The Centre for Bhutan Studies.

Wilber, K. (2000). Integral psychology. Shambhala Publications.

Wilber, Ken, (2009). Kaiken lyhyt historia (Helsinki, Basam Books)


  1. Chalmers (1995) pointed out that many consciousness articles actually miss the whole target of explaining the emergence of consciousness, though this was the task they set out to accomplish, and, unaware, instead of touching the actual problem, end up explaining how some function within consciousness or experience works, a function such as integration of knowledge, for example.
  2. Over the developmental trajectory, the ways of thinking change and move towards greater wisdom and a better match between the universe and one’s conceptualizations of it. Over this process a holistic way of thinking for example appears. Holistic thinking, thinking in terms of wholes within wholes is something that is researched for example in the Systems Intelligence Research group in Aalto University (Hämäläinen & Saarinen, 2008). It is part of systemic thinking.
  3. While it is true the truthfulness of Wilber’s theory was not directly discussed and the work was mostly conceptual analysis, I did touch cautiously upon the possible truthfulness of its implications for example in chapter 6, pages 102-103.
  4. For example on page 99, paragraph on the right, lines 4-9, from what Kraut (2008) says does not follow that the case truly is so. In this particular example, I believe I should have talked about our understanding of Aristotle’s theory and not Aristotle’s theory per se.

Ethical teaching of ethical thinking

TSElosophers meeting 8.6.2017
Otto Rosendahl, Kari Lukka, Jonathan Van Mumford, Milla Wirén

Behavioral Ethics and Teaching Ethical Decision Making, Minette Drumwright, Robert Prentice, Cara Biasucci, Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education 2015

Quick summary:

While the identification of four stages of the process of ethical behaviour (awareness, decision-making, intent, action) was applauded as a potentially fruitful opening, in the discussion the TSElosophers questioned the instrumental approach of behavioral sciences in the context of ethics. Can ends justify means? However, understanding the decision-making processes of individuals may yield insights to educators aspiring to educate ethically thinking individuals, but these behavioral insights should be complemented with philosophical discussions and treated with respect, not as tools of manipulation – even for the best of reasons.


The authors posit the view that philosophical teaching of ethics in business schools should be complemented with behavioral ethics, which leans on psychology and sociology. Drumwright, Prentice and Biasucci (2015, 438–439) argue that “most ethical mistakes in business are not made because people have not read enough Kant or Bentham (Abel, 2008; Jennings, 2005). Insider trading, earnings fraud, tax evasion, foreign bribery, and other common white collar crimes do not present vexing philosophical quandaries”. Instead of Kant and Bentham, behavioral ethics highlights that people have tendency to believe that they are more ethical than they really are. This easily leads, Drumwright et al. argue, to people bypassing ethical deliberation even in dubious circumstances because they have a feeling that most or all of their actions are ethical.

Behavioral ethics education raises the moral awareness (ability to recognize ethical problems) of students by positing the view that most decisions are made instinctively and there are cognitive limitations that make ethical action difficult for even the most well-intentioned people. However, awareness of behavioral biases does not automatically lead to desirable action. Raising the “moral awareness” is just the first, albeit critical, step to moral action.

The authors present a four-step process for behavioral ethics which consists in (1) recognizing the ethical problem, (2) formulating an ethical response, (3) desire to act ethically and (4) doing the right thing. Formulating an ethical response is challenging especially due to self-serving bias, i.e. a person’s failure to see unethical behavior if the action serves their self-interest (e.g. Langevoort 1997). Other biases include e.g. incrementalism, where a person’s small infractions gradually change into larger ones (Tenbrunsel & Messick 2004), conforming to the unethical practices in the environment (Gneezy 2005; Robert & Arnab 2013) and tendency to make a different decision depending a framing of the situation as a gain or a loss (Tversky & Kahneman 1985). The third step is more straight-forward as, Drumwright et al. argue, “most people wish to act ethically, at least as a general rule and up to certain limits” (p. 439). The final step, doing the right thing, requires a feeling of responsibility, feeling able to act and having courage to act in the situation. Reading the article might lead to an erroneous impression as if the eternal issues of ethics could be solved by merely adding to our knowledge – this is certainly not a valid position. For instance, knowledge of behavioral biases can be used for non-ethical purposes. The article implicitly recognizes, even at least seemingly in an acceptable vein, this by referring to company marketing practices that abuse behavioral biases in order to trigger envy between consumers to increase their desires of purchasing a good (p. 436). The paper could have seriously discussed the potential issues of people without an ethical stance “to do the right thing” getting to know more about behavioral biases.

The article could have built bridges between philosophical and behavioral ethics ­– or at least mentioned it as an avenue for future research. For example, four steps of behavioral ethics would benefit from traditionally virtuous character traits: the first and the second step especially with prudence, the third step with benevolence and the fourth step with courage. So, theoretically it would be promising to combine virtue ethics and behavioral ethics in teaching in order to increase students’ moral agency, i.e. capability to act with reference to right and wrong. However, teachers’ work to enhance character has not been found to strongly improve ethical actions (DeSteno & Valdesolo 2011). Similarly, Drumwright et al. (2015) could not provide strong evidence that teaching behavioral ethics would improve individual ethics. On a more positive note, teaching behavioral ethics could at least raise the moral awareness of students, thereby providing them a defense mechanism against manipulative practices.

TSElosophers received this paper rather positively, but there was a doubt whether the teaching at TSE includes enough even the philosophical teaching of ethics – which is fundamental regarding the questions at stake in this paper – not to mention behavioral ethics. Do we have a general course where students would learn to compare, contrast and apply the three major orientations in moral philosophy, namely Kantianism, consequentialism and virtue ethics? Of course, there are some ethical courses such as “Ethical questions in business” but their orientation to philosophical or behavioral ethics is challenging to specify from the course description. Also, the issues that behavioral ethics puts forward are taught in some other courses, such as in the “Behavioral economics”. Therefore, we would emphasize that in the context of TSE, the main issue would be to evaluate the comprehensiveness of both philosophical and behavioral orientations to teaching ethics and, additionally, consider the balance between them.

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